The World House – Competition Result


Oh, you lovely people have been so patient while we deliberated over the many (and enormously varied) entries into our recent competition base around The World House.

You may remember the competition:

Write a short story about any subject you like. The only rules are:

1) It has to be 13 sentences long
2) The first word of the first sentence must begin with T, the first word of the second sentence must begin with H, the first word of the third sentence must begin with E, and so on, so that the first letters of the sentences, printed one under the other, spell out “THE WORLD HOUSE”.

Guy Adams, author of the wonderfully mad The World House judged the entries, and read every one personally. In Guy’s own words:

Judging this was hard. Entering it was harder. I’m not great at writing short stories, they always end up far too long. Still, I hope I have some idea as to how the really good ones work (whether capable of turning that knowledge into practical use or not). Certainly I’ve read enough of them.

The problem with a number of the entries – and I sympathise having done it myself – was the urge to structure the stories like a joke. Roald Dahl was great at the twist, the punchline, that left an extra dose of relish after reading. It’s not an easy skill and sometimes the entries worked too hard at presenting a punchline at their conclusion. A punchline that rarely paid off (though an entry about flying pigs came close!). Another predictable issue was garbled sentence structure, forced to start a sentence with a certain letter made for a contorted read at times.

And the winner is… [insert drumroll here]:

Adam Christopher, with Forevermore:

by Adam Christopher

Though he knew it was a great honour, that his name would live forevermore in the annals of Empire, he was afraid.

Honour. Even as the conveyor belt carried him and the other volunteers across the threshold and into the Factory proper, the word tickled him. While it wasn’t the most important thing for him, not really, it meant everything, the whole world, to his family.

“Order, prosperity,” his father said, eyes wet with tears. Repeating the Oath of Empire on Ascension Day, over and over, as he stood by his son at the recruitment desk on the hot summer morning, made him feel part of the day, part of history, proud of his King and his firstborn son. Like father, like son, like the generations of firstborn before them, volunteering for service on the most patriotic day of the year was not just a duty, but destiny itself.

Destiny. He laughed, even as the doors of the Factory closed, even as its great engines sprang into life, filling the cavernous space with a sound as loud as the war that had raged in the upper atmosphere for centuries, the war he and his fellow recruits would be shot into in a manner of minutes. Oblivious to the pain and the horror, fear now removed by the hypnotic gas that flooded the Factory, he smiled and laughed as soft flesh was flayed from bones and his flabby, organic limbs were replaced with strong, mechanical components. Unlike his father and grandfather, Edward had volunteered for the cavalry, knowing that this would involve augmentation before battle, but the honour it brought would be all the greater.

Spacefall was swift, the rockets in his legs propelling him out of the factory and into the sky a scant second after the final robotic prosthesis had been grafted into his nervous system, shooting him directly into the front lines where the battle raged.

Edward, firstborn, smiled and laughed as he blasted the enemy with his gun arms, and laughed and smiled as he died, blown into a million shards of metal and flesh that rained down through the stratosphere just ten seconds into his glorious, honourable service in the name of the Order, Prosperity, and Empire.

Congratulations, Adam – we’ll be in touch about your prize!

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Categories : Books, Competitions



Wow, thanks so much! I’m completely over the moon 🙂 A big thanks to Guy for judging and a big thanks to Lee and everyone else at Angry Robot!

Heike Harding-Reyland
April 15th, 2010 at 10:42 am

This is a fantastic little story – it made me all shiver with horror, sadness and something quite lumpy in the stomach area. Well written, a whole world in a few sentences. Thanks!


I thought it had to be 13 sentences long….?


Cool. I wrote the flying pigs entry. If you’re curious, check it out here: http://woodge.posterous.com/when-pigs-fly-13


Ryan, look again at Adam’s entry – it is thirteen sentences. The steampunk setting lends itself well to those lengthy, Jane Austen-standard uber-sentences!


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